U.S. Senator Makes City Stop, About 75 Attend
Posted: May 31, 2014
By PRESTON KNIGHT
HARRISONBURG — U.S. Sen. Mark Warner didn’t get off to the best start for his job interview in the city on Friday: He ran late.
But for the next hour, he laid out his argument for why voters should “rehire” him to office for another six years in a message that touched on bipartisanship, student loan debt, job growth, education and more.
“In America, everybody ought to get a fair shot,” said Warner, a Democrat who kicked off his re-election campaign for a second term in office this week. “What I worry about increasingly is whether our kids or grandkids are going to have that same kind of fair shot [I had growing up].”
The Harrisonburg Democratic Committee hosted the former governor Friday afternoon at Matchbox Realty downtown. The event was the seventh stop on Warner’s “Working Together” tour and attracted about 75 people.
The senator said his five-plus years in the Senate have been a challenge because he’s found that there’s less desire to compromise, compared to his time as governor of Virginia from 2002 to 2006.
Democrats and Republicans must admit “neither political party has a monopoly on truth or patriotism,” he said, and arguing only turns off “rational” people.
Warner won’t introduce major legislation without a Republican co-sponsor, he said. For example, the Know Before You Go Act is a bill he’s teamed with Republican Marco Rubio of Florida on. It ensures more information is provided to prospective college students, such as their employment chances for their field of study upon graduating.
That is one measure he hopes will help solve what he calls the next financial crisis: student debt. Refinancing of student loans should also be available and employers should be given the option to help pay off the debt for employees, Warner said.
“In America, you shouldn’t have to go broke if you want to go to college,” he said.
People in their 20s and 30s cannot afford to buy houses and start their own companies because of student debt, Warner said. That harms job growth, he said.
To help startups, Warner suggests reforming the tax code to encourage companies to come to the United States and pushes for regulations to be established for crowdfunding, which will allow individuals to invest money in startups over the Internet.
On K-12 education, No Child Left Behind — the federal legislation meant to measure student progress largely through standardized testing and other benchmarks — should be reformed or eliminated to put less emphasis on “rote memorization,” he said. Warner favors making computer coding a mandatory class in high school, calling it a “21st century language.”
Reforms to major legislation are an acceptable practice because Congress “never gets it right the first time entirely,” he said. Warner uses that argument to defend his stance on the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, which Republicans have repeatedly tried to repeal and, in Virginia, pin any problems associated with it to the senator for approving it.
Warner said Congress should take the positives from the act and improve them, such as offering a cheaper option, especially for younger people, and setting mandates on businesses that employ 100 or fewer people, not 50.
From the May 8, 2014 DNR by Preston Knight
HARRISONBURG -- The Harrisonburg Democratic Committee on Wednesday selected a pair of candidates for this fall’s City Council race that it hopes will give the party a near full house on the panel.
Chris Jones, an account executive at WHSV, and Alleyn Harned, executive director of Virginia Clean Cities at James Madison University, werenominated during a caucus meeting attended by 30 committee members.
Jones, 35, and Harned, 33, were the only two city residents who sought the nomination.
Two seats are open on the five-person council in November’s election. Mayor Ted Byrd, a Republican, seeks re-election, while Councilman Charles Chenault, an independent, does not.
Councilmen Richard Baugh, Kai Degner and Abe Shearer are up for re-election in two years. Baugh and Degner are Democrats, while Shearer is independent.
Members serve four-year terms and elect a mayor within their ranks every two years.
Later this month, city Republicans will nominate Byrd and D.D. Dawson, who is retiring as finance director for Harrisonburg City Public Schools. Also, Helen Shibut, chairwoman of the Harrisonburg Libertarian Committee, and Josh Huffman, a former Republican running as an independent, seek seats on council but must turn in 125 signatures of registered voters to the Harrisonburg Registrar’s Office by June 10.
Friends Of The Friendly City
Jones, a Danville native, said he “fell in love” with Harrisonburg nearly 20 years ago while on a college visit to James Madison University. He graduated from there in 2000 with a degree in sociology — focusing on critical thought — and a minor in business.
After working in Northern Virginia and Raleigh, N.C., Jones returned to Harrisonburg last year and went through the city’s citizens academy, which provides a behind-the-scenes look at various government departments.
It’s that diverse background — small-town roots and big-city living, plus business experience — that he wants to bring to City Council. He also wants to offer a voice for the Northeast Neighborhood, where he lives.
One particular area of need citywide is reducing the school system’s free and reduced lunch population, Jones said. About 73 percent of students are eligible for meal benefits this year, compared to 40 percent statewide, school officials have said.
Jones said he wants to build a Harrisonburg that has “lasting economic growth” and encourages its youth to want to stay.
“It’s a fun, safe, growing place,” he said.
Harned, 33, is a Chapel Hill, N.C., native who has spent his time trying to reduce our reliance on oil. Virginia Clean Cities, which he joined in 2009, promotes using alternative fuels and encourages programs that improve air quality.
Before joining the organization, Harned served as the assistant secretary of commerce and trade under Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine.
He’ll receive a master’s degree in public administration from JMU this week, with a concentration in community economic development. Harned is hopeful he can bring “new energy” to council.
Serving on the panel is his way of giving back in a “meaningful way,” he said.
“I want to spend the next 180 days … reuniting with old friends, meeting new people and building a collaborative vision for this city,” Harned said.
The Harrisonburg Democratic Committee got its nominees off to a nice start: It donated $1,000 to each campaign and is offering free access to a voter information system that helps candidates target registered voters.